On a crisp morning in a mountainous area of Lake Tahoe, CA, five VA Palo Alto Health Care System (VAPAHCS) police officers proved they are definitely "tough mudders." Nearly a month ago, they battled their way through a military-style, 12-mile obstacle course, claimed to be "probably the toughest event on the planet" but known to many as "Tough Mudder."
The team experienced a 25-obstacle course known for having temperatures as low as 41 degrees and as high as 81 degrees, climbing their way through ice baths nicknamed "Arctic Enema" and sliding on their belly through an obstacle called "Electric Eel," where crawling on your knees will result in being shocked by live wires.
Designed by British Special Forces to test one's all-around strength, Tough Mudder has already had half a million people from all over the world participate. It has raised more than $3 million dollars for the Wounded Warrior Project, a non-profit that works closely with programs at VAPAHCS.
This was a perfect chance for the officers, who all have prior military experience, including Marine Corps, Army and Navy Veterans, to challenge themselves physically while giving back to wounded warriors they know so closely.
Meanwhile, another tough mudder from VAPAHCS was right on their heels. Margaret Baker, chief of Canteen services at VAPAHCS, was filled with anxiety as she approached the starting line with her team.
"I was so nervous, and wondered to myself if I had trained enough," said Baker.
But when the moderator of the event began speaking, Baker lost her anxiety and his words got her adrenaline pumping. She described the experience as a great big family helping each other push through fears, physical barriers, and any doubt that they could finish.
This same spirit was felt by the five officers who finished the obstacle course a few hours later, with their smiles being the only part of their body NOT covered in mud.
"I would like to let our VA community know that we, as VA Police Officers, are ready to take on any challenge!" said Lieutenant Cartis "Ryan" Stephens, Marine Corps Combat Veteran.
Baker also had a message inspired by her experience, calling out to fellow employees: "Who will join me and other VAPAHCS Mudders in Tahoe for Tough Mudder 2013?"